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Verdun: The Left Bank (Paperback)

Military WWI > Battles & Campaigns > Verdun WWI > By Year > 1916

By Christina Holstein
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 190
Illustrations: 75
ISBN: 9781473827035
Published: 8th February 2016



Verdun The Sacred Wound

The Sacred Wound is a 2 part BBC radio 4 programme which coincides with Christina Holstein's Verdun titles, click here to listen to the first episode called, The Battle.

View the second part, of Sacred Wound: Loss and Legacy here today!


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This new and enthralling study is the first detailed work in English of a largely unknown period of the Battle of Verdun. It considers the background to the battle and casts light on the first three critical months of fighting there. It explains the decision to change the original German plan for the Verdun offensive and extend the action to the Left Bank of the River Meuse.

Using only original French and German sources the author describes the fighting on the Left Bank and follows the German offensive as it slowly pushed forward, taking three terrible months to reach its objectives, the two hills known as Cote 304 and the Mort-Homme, or Dead Man. The reasons why the German offensive did not go as planned, and the problems that they had to overcome in order to reach their objectives, are fully explained. The French defence of the Left Bank hills, described by Germans themselves as outstanding, is also covered in great detail.

Having spent twenty years walking the battlefield of Verdun, the author is able to describe the events in detail on the basis of a unique and intimate knowledge of the ground. The French defences, described by the Germans as outstanding, are thoroughly explained. The book contains over 150 photographs, most of which have never been published before and which show the startling traces that remain of the longest battle of the First World War. The three walking tours take visitors through areas of the Left Bank that few visitors will ever visit.

As featured on...

Roads To The Great War Blog

As featured in.

Stand To! Western Front Assc No.106

As reviewed on Destructive Music

Destructive Music

Bottom line, the latest book of Ms. Christina Holstein is a more than welcome addition to her trilogy about the battle of Verdun and the two memorable forts, Douaumont and Vaux. It is a fine combination of the history of the battle on the left bank, its highlights and sorrows as well as being a practical guide to the visitor of this part of the battlefield. Common to all four books are their use to the military historian as well as to the dedicated or occasional visitor who wants to understand what took place in 1916 in this part of France...

... In 2016 as we commemorate the battle of Verdun, Ms. Christina Holstein´s four books are an excellent introduction to this part of our common history. To understand France and Germany of 2016 requires understanding Verdun 1916. Soldiers, historians, Europeans at large and others caring about the future of Europe will do well by reading the four books of Christina Holstein and visiting this very visible battlefield. It is a sobering experience.

Peer review, General Knud Bartels (Ret)

Historian Christina Holstein is one of the foremost experts on Verdun so among this latest offering it is good to see a new guidebook from her: Verdun – The Left Bank. This is a really excellent guidebook covering Mort Homme and the Cote 304 area in some detail: the vital left bank is often neglected by historians, let along battlefield visitors. As one would expect with Holstein the work is very well researched, there are good illustrations and excellent maps. A real must for anyone going to Verdun this year.

WW1 Centenary - Paul Reed

More for the battlefield visitor with this soft-cover book from Pen and Sword in their Battleground Europe series. This is a new guide from author Christina Holstein, and the fourth in the series to cover the fighting around Verdun. No direct British army involvement in this part of the Western Front, this was perhaps the focus of the war for the French Army. This new one is interesting for tackling a part of the battlefield that is less well known and certainly less well known to the battlefield visitor than the areas on the right bank of the Meuse, to the north and north-east of Verdun itself.

There are not the impressive forts to visit here like Douaumont and Vaux, nor the large memorials that you find near those forts. Here there is lots of woodland and no great road network to make a driving tour a good solution. So what we have in here, along with the story of the events and the history, are 3 detailed walking tours. It is pointed out that those forts and fieldworks that are on the left bank are all inaccessible. They are in a dangerous condition and unsafe to even try and enter and to do so will lead to heavy fines. You are also advised to keep to the designated paths as there is still a lot of live ammunition in the area which is dangerous so on no account should you attempt to pick any up as souvenirs. The walking tours cover the North Side of Cote (Hill) 304, which is a 10 kilometer route and should take around 4 hours to complete. There are a number of small memorials to be seen along the route and these are highlighted for you. The second tour covers the Mort-Homme, and is again about 10 kilometers and will take around 4 hours to complete. As with the others, advice is to keep clear of holes that remain in the ground as underground works are very unsafe these days. There were a number of tunnels in this area and it was also the site for some French heavy artillery positions. The final tour, the South Side of Cote 304 is slightly shorter than the other two at 9 kilometers and an estimated completion time of about 3 1/2 hours.

The fighting in this area was vicious and the memories of some who were there that are included in the book tell a tale of the death, destruction and indeed the horror faced by the men of both sides is well illustrated. Fighting in this area was really about the German army trying to outflank the forts on the right bank, and to deny the French artillery observers the high ground on the left bank. The front remained largely stalled though and was just a huge drain on men and resources for both sides and for no real advantage. Added to the rest of the story of the fighting for Verdun, this new battlefield guide makes for some interesting reading, and will make for an interesting area to visit, largely for remaining one of the areas of the battlefield that is less well explored by visitors.

As ever, these Battlefield guides are well presented and are a valuable resource to have in the car with you if you travel in this area of France. In my view they also provide good value for money and are well worth having.

Military Modelling Online - Robin Buckland

As featured in

Kentish Gazette
 Christina Holstein

About Christina Holstein

Christina Holstein is a leading authority on the Battle of Verdun. For many years she lived close to the battlefield and has explored it in great detail. She regularly conducts tours of the battlefield for individuals or groups and, with her specialized knowledge of the terrain, has acted as consultant to a number of other historians, TV producers and TV and radio journalists. Over the years she has written five books in the Battleground Europe series on the Battle of Verdun 1916. She was the founding chairman of the Luxembourg branch of the Western Front Association.

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